New York Prep School Blocks First Black Valedictorian From Delivering Speech

Last month, Jaisaan Lovett graduated from Rochester, New York’s University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men as the first black valedictorian. In the weeks leading up to the school’s graduation, Lovett expected an invitation to speak during the ceremony but was forbidden due to several “run-ins” with the school’s principal, Joseph Munno.

Lovett tells The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that over the course of his 6 years at the all-male school, he often spoke up to Munno about issues that were “wrong” with the institution. Last year, he responded to the school’s refusal to order needed safety lab equipment by leading a five-day student strike.

“There’s a lot of wrong things that go on at that school, and when I notice it I speak out against it,” Lovett told the Democrat & Chronicle. “[Munno] is a guy that doesn’t like to be told ‘no.'”

Lovett went on to add that he was never asked to deliver a valedictorian speech — similar to previous valedictorians — and claims Munno denied his formal request to speak at this year’s ceremony.

“He didn’t want to see the speech or what it said, nothing,” Lovett said. “He just said no.”

Luckily, Lovett’s tenure as an intern in the office of Rochester Mayor, Lovely Warren provided the teen with another platform. On Tuesday, Warren invited Lovett to City Hall where he delivered his belated speech and later posted it on the city’s YouTube channel.

“To Mr. Munno, my principal, there’s a whole lot of things I’ve wanted to say to you for a long time. … I’m here as the UPrep 2018 valedictorian to tell you that you couldn’t break me. I’m still here, and I’m still here strong,” he said.

“And after all these years, all this anger I’ve had toward you and UPrep as a whole, I realized I had to let that go in order to better myself. And I forgive you for everything I held against you.”

After making history at UPrep, Lovett will now go on to attend Clark Atlanta University on a full academic scholarship.

On Tuesday the school released a statement regarding their exclusion of Lovett’s speech.

“The Board will be reviewing the circumstances regarding what happened and looking into the related guidelines and school policies,” the statement read. “For confidentiality reasons, the school isn’t able to speak about the specifics of this situation. UPrep wishes Jaision (sic) Lovett, the first black Valedictorian in the school’s four-year graduation history, much success as he continues his education at Clark Atlanta University.”

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